‘People dead, dying and displaced’: B.C. doctor returns from 6th trip to Ukraine

A B.C. doctor has returned from her sixth trip to the frontlines in Ukraine, gutted by the continued devastation she continues to encounter as Russia’s invasion nears the 17-month mark.

“I think the overall message was that the war in Ukraine is not going away, that the number of people dead, dying and displaced is more than it ever was,” Dr. Tracey Parnell said after a Tuesday speech in Cranbrook.

“If we don’t remember history we’re doomed to repeat it, and I worry that might be a situation we’re facing currently.”

Parnell, a physician trained in emergency medicine and disaster management, is part of the team behind MedicTeam4Ukraine. The group is assessing the Ukraine’s medical needs, fundraising to deliver on them, and offering medical care and training on the ground.

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This deployment was cut short, she told Global News, because she and her team were exposed to a “chemical agent” and had to return home.

“It’s still dangerous. I’m no less safe than any of the other people there and there’s a million people trying to push back this oppressor,” Parnell said.

Click to play video: 'Odesa attack: Ukraine accuses Russia of intentional strike on key Black Sea grain port'

Odesa attack: Ukraine accuses Russia of intentional strike on key Black Sea grain port

Russia recently unleashed intense drone and missile attacks in southern Ukraine, damaging critical port infrastructure including gran and oil terminals, and wounding at least 12 people, officials have said.

The bombardment crippled significant parts of export facilities in Odesa and nearby Chornomorsk and destroyed 60,000 tons of grain, according to Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry.

It came days after President Vladimir Putin pulled Russia out of its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a wartime deal that enabled Ukraine’s exports to reach many countries facing the threat of hunger.

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It also followed a vow by Putin to retaliate against Kyiv for an attack Monday on the crucial Kerch Bridge linking Russia with the Crimean Peninsula, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014.

Click to play video: 'Russia suspends landmark Ukraine grain deal'

Russia suspends landmark Ukraine grain deal

In June, the United Nations estimated that Russia’s incursion has resulted in nearly 30,000 civilian casualties and close to 16,000 injuries in Ukraine, and more than 9,000 deaths. More than eight million refugees are thought to have fled the eastern European country, with over five million displaced from their homes inside it.

Parnell said she has personally witnessed war crimes. In the city of Bakhmut — captured by Russian forces in May — she said she and her team were seeing between 100 and 200 “major trauma patients” every 24 hours.

She recalled a particular patient who had his neck cut open in an outdated procedure to get air into his lungs, awake without anesthetic.

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“The horror I felt — the only thing I could do for this patient despite all my fancy training was to say, ‘Dobre, dobre — don’t worry, you’ll be okay, I’m here for you,’” Parnell described.

Click to play video: '‘Putin has already lost’: Biden says Russia cannot ‘maintain war forever’'

‘Putin has already lost’: Biden says Russia cannot ‘maintain war forever’

Ukraine is facing a dire shortage of medical staff and equipment to treat such a volume of casualties, she explained in her speech at a community theatre in Cranbrook, calling the working conditions of ground medics “horrible.”

“There certainly is some improvement in patient care. I certainly don’t see the volume and the type of equipment that I think should be there, but it’s better than it was,” Parnell said in an interview afterward.

“I know people want to give, but going to the basement and picking up stuff is probably — just, we’re beyond that now, we really need to get these guys the best quality supplies.”

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Click to play video: 'Crimea bridge attack: Putin says Russia will respond to ‘terrorist act’ in Kerch Strait'

Crimea bridge attack: Putin says Russia will respond to ‘terrorist act’ in Kerch Strait

MedicTeam4Ukraine is fundraising to train other doctors and first responders in advanced trauma care, as well send over potentially life-saving equipment, like tourniquets, chest seals and hemostatic bandages.

“These people are thirsty, hungry for any training they can get, and this offers them a very high level and an adaptable level,” she said of the initiatives undertaken by MedicTeam4Ukraine.

“You have all of these people trying to do stuff, and honestly they’ve been focusing on the warfare aspect, not training the medics. That’s coming now.”

Parnell is returning to Ukraine in two weeks.

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